Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chapter 2. A theatre of illusions

Grandpa is stark raving mad! Come to think of it, so am I. I glance back at where the door should be. The door I came in through just a few minutes ago. There was nothing there but a featureless wall. No door. Maybe this really is purgatory. No, wait, this is hell.

The old man is walking to the staircase at the end of the room, lighting candles here and there on tables and tall holders. I start walking after him, glancing around me. There are paintings here and there on the walls. The portraits are so life-like that I could swear that, if I were to turn around, I would catch them staring at me. I hurry along, chills running down my spine.

We climb up the stairs and reach a massive wooden door. There is an inscription on it saying 'Enter into the world'. The old man pauses enough for me to read it - twice - and opens the door. "After you, Miss Olivia."

From the threshold, the room appears to actually be an enclosed garden terrace, with a few shady trees here and there, some shrubbery and small flower beds. Under the trees there are small round tables with people sitting around them on round chairs. They are conversing cheerfully and there is also a band playing somewhere out of sight.

There doesn't seem to be any danger, so I go inside. Or actually, outside. There is even a small breeze rustling the leaves.

The old man follows me and leads me to a table. We sit down.

"Miss Olivia, welcome to my Garden. Would you like some tea?" he asks politely.

"No, thank you. You said you can show me the way out."

"Eh, yes. But all in good time."

"Look, Mr... " I pause, cueing him to say his name, but he doesn't, so I go on. "Time is a luxury I can't afford too much of. It was a mistake to come here and all I want is to go home. I'm sure I'm inconveniencing you anyway and - "

He cuts me off. "Please, Miss Olivia, try to understand that by coming here, you have started something that you cannot simply back out of. You have to carry it out to the end."

"Why?" I cry out a bit too loud. "I am a free citizen of this country and I have my rights. You can't hold me against my will. I will call the police!" I realize I'm panting. I don't usually lose my temper like this, nor make a big public scene.

"I'm sorry, dear lady, that there is no police around here. And even if there were, you wouldn't have any way of calling them."

I defiantly take my cell phone out of my handbag. It is showing no reception, no matter what I do to it. I try it all, restarting it, taking the SIM card out, air plane mode on and off. No bars.

As I am fumbling with my phone, the old man gently touches my elbow. I stare at him in panic.

"Look around you."

I cautiously peer around me, expecting to see the same people sitting and laughing at the nearby tables and the band playing in the back.

Instead, to my horror, the room is actually eerily quiet all of a sudden and everything is still. More than that, the people have all turned into mannequins. Sitting in the same positions, with the same expressions, yet lifeless. I gape in awe for a few seconds, then turn back towards the old man.

It finally dawns on me that I might actually be in some kind of other world, like Narnia or Wonderland. I sit down defeatedly, not even remembering when I got up.

"Ok Mr White Rabbit. I will dance to your tune. Tell me how to finish this adventure."

"That's more like it." He actually smiles. "Let me introduce myself. I am the gatekeeper. I guide people towards the start of their adventure."

Please... I've heard it all before in hundreds of fantasy stories. Why does mine also have to be so cliched?

"Mr Gatekeeper, what I would need to know is how to finish this adventure as soon as possible. I have a book translation due next week."

"Young people these days, so eager to get on with their lives, they forget to live. Very well." He rubs his beard thoughtfully. "You will reach the end of your adventure when you will have found your prince charming."

I stutter "What makes you think I don't already have a prince charming? Maybe I'm unavailable. What makes you think I even need a man in my life? I can take care of myself perfectly fine -"

"My dear child, everyone can use a little love in their life. And you are definitely unattached. Being married to your job does not mean you are in a relationship." Drat!

"Very well" I say reluctantly. "I will keep an open mind for any upcoming prince charming to come sweep me off my feet." But not because I desperately fear living the rest of my life alone.

"That is a wise decision."

I start to relax. Well, at least force myself to relax. "Is there any other advice you can give me, Sir?"

"Yes..." He rubs his beard again. "Be careful whom you trust out there. Not everyone is a friend."

"Right."

"You might even think you've found prince charming, but he might turn out to be quite the opposite."

"Great." I rub my temples, trying to ease my growing head ache.

"Calm down, Miss Olivia. I trust you will make the right decisions."

"Thank you..."

"Look around you again."

"I raise my eyes slowly and turn around. Some people have a fear of dolls and mannequins. I think I now understand why.

But, surprise! The mannequins are living people again, laughing and drinking like nothing happened. I rub at my eyes, looking around incredulously. The people are alive alright.

"Uh, what has just happened?"

"That, my dear lady, was a metaphor. You might see some others here and there. Don't be afraid of them. Unless they really seem dangerous."

I gape at the old man. "Your advice is not a lot of help, is it? Prince charming is the key to finishing the adventure, unless it is not really him. Metaphors are ok unless they are dangerous. Do you give the same advice for everyone?"

"I give each person the advice they need."

"Ok..." I glance back around the garden. The band are packing their instruments, chatting and laughing. The singer looks kind of familiar... But he has already disappeared behind one of the panels behind the stage.

"You should leave soon. Before it is too dark. If you hurry, you can make it to the next village."

We get up. "Alright. Lead the way." We start towards the other end of the terrace. I take one last look at the empty stage. Where have I seen that guy before?

10 comments:

  1. I like the people as manikins - spooky. Looking forward to reading more.

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  2. Very Spooky!! I am a new visitor and follower via Crazed Fans!!

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  3. It's becoming even more mysterious and interesting! What do you have up your sleeve, Lavi? The suspense is building and not sure where you are taking us with this journey.

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  4. Like Desiree, I don't know where we are going with this story, but it is certainly different, and I keep wanting to know more! I shall be staying tuned for the next episode.

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  5. Thank you for all your attention and welcome to Doreen!
    I have a plan, of course, but I have to keep all of you hanging in suspense, because that's what a good entertainer should do. Plus, the plot tends to surprise me too, if I leave enough loop holes to improvisation.
    I won't mind any criticism, of course :D

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  6. Well, you're certainly keeping us wondering. The sign of an intriguing tale :D)

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  7. Very suspense-filled, Lavi.

    But on a lighter note (pun intended), I sometimes think I wouldn't mind seeing a new sunrise (or at least the same one from a different perspective). Damn travel for being so expensive, right.

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  8. Lots of tension and mystery here. You've left me wanting more - much more.

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  9. Hi Lavi - New follower from Blog hop. Great to be here and read your fascinating writing - bizarre in the best way! ;D

    http://wordsinsync.blogspot.com/2011/08/weekend-creation-blog-hop-plus-2-poems.html

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  10. I'll be back, Lavi, so that you can tell us all...what we need to know.

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